“Want to come inside for a visit?” Elva asked.
I was there for milk and eggs only. I hadn’t expected to be invited inside the main house, and I was suddenly embarrassed by my grubby barn garb – stocking cap, work jeans, muddy boots – but the hospitable man seemed to read my mind.
“Seems the best place for a chat is out of the rain.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I followed Elva into the square house and was immediately welcomed by the warm smile and handshake of his wife, Alta. Something yeasty and cinnamon-y was also welcoming me from their oven.
“So you’re a writer of books?”
I looked into Elva’s blue eyes. They were kind and curious and ready to smile. Now that he had taken off his black hat, I could see that his ruddy hair perfectly matched his beard in shade and texture.
“Yes.” I never know what else to say in these circumstances.
“What are they about?”
“Oh, well.” I cleared my throat and tried to think how best to describe in just a few sentences what took thousands upon thousands of sentences to actually publish. “My husband and I have not been blessed with children, so my first book is about barrenness.”
They didn’t flinch. I took a breath and continued. “I like writing about God’s abundant love and mercy to us in Christ Jesus. It comforts me to know that God’s care for us is proven in the gift of His own Son, not in the gift of children of my own.”
Neither of them seemed to be bothered by serious talk.
“Would you like to see my books?” Elva gestured an invitation toward the four shelves of books tucked neatly in the corner of the room.
“Turn on the lamp, so she can see,” Alta instructed.
I tried not to stare too obviously as Elva picked up a nearby lighter. The gas lamp above my head buzzed and popped with immediate light. The thought occurred to me that I was just a couple of hours away from my own home but worlds away from my daily life. I skimmed the titles. The Holy Bible. That one I expected. What I didn’t expect was The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2.
“Oh, I know that book,” I said. It is an autobiographical account of one man’s experiences walking across America with his wife. It’s prequel is a retelling of the experiences of that same man walking across America by himself. “My mom read it aloud to me when I was in elementary school. Do you like it?”
“Yes,” Elva’s brow furrowed, “but I learned that the author and his wife are no longer together. That kind of ruined it for me.”
A soulful, convicted man. I took a risk.
“This is a personal question, and, please,” I walked back to my chair across the room, too nervous to look either of my hosts in the eye, “don’t answer if I am being inappropriate, but are there any,” I swallowed, “barren couples in your community?”
Alta glanced at her husband’s face. “Yes. One of my closest friends, in fact. Well, they did end up having one child, but…”
“But none after that?”
“Is it hard not to have children in your community?” I colored at the sound of my own question. It registered as dumb in my own barren ears. “I mean, I would think it would be hard not to have more help with the work around the house…”
Oh, dear. I was getting dumber by the second.
Elva generously saved me. “We usually generate only the amount of work we can do ourselves. And we help each other.”
I nodded, embarrassed. “So the barren in your community have support.” I said it more to myself than to anyone else.
“Yes,” Alta nodded. “In fact, several- ”
There are several Amish barren! I was surprised and somewhat comforted.
” -get together for circle time in our area to visit and…”
Alta looked at her husband, again. I could tell she didn’t know how to describe what she had never taken part in.
“And encourage each other?” I offered.
She nodded, again.
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. Even in this strange world of gas lamps and horse-drawn buggies, I was not alone in my suffering.
I felt quite encouraged, myself.